Alumni Spotlight: Christine Davison


From a small town in Kent, Christine is more accustomed to seeing badgers and foxes than turtles and jaguars. Her internship with GVI has reignited the fire in her to work in the world of conservation.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to do the short-term internship with GVI as I wanted something more substantial than a simple volunteering trip. I felt this program would give me skills and experience above and beyond what you normally get from some of these trips that would help me towards a career in conservation.

The extra mentoring and projects I would be involved in convinced me that this would be the most advantageous choice. I have not been involved in anything like this before so decided that 6 weeks would be a suitable amount of time to get a good idea of how the project works. Looking back I wish I had booked for longer.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Although I had to book my flights to Costa Rica myself, GVI advised me on when to arrive in the country prior to the start of the course and offered an airport pick-up if I arrived at a certain time.

I chose to stay in the recommended hostel, from which they collect you on the start date, which made things much easier and far less stressful at the beginning of my trip. They then transport you all the way from San Jose to camp which really gives you peace of mind, and from the start shows you how caring and supportive the staff our.

From what to pack to insurance, GVI provided support and advice on all aspects of the trip before departure. They also ask you to provide them with all your details so at any time during your stay if there is an emergency they have the important information on hand. This is one of the most well-organized companies I have seen. Knowing this gave both myself and my family peace of mind.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be prepared to be hot and sweaty all of the time, go with an open mind and remember; you are living in the jungle!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The general schedule for each day is very similar, but no two days are ever the same in the jungle.

The morning will start bright and early as soon as the sun comes up, giving everyone plenty of time to conducting turtle nest checks or beginning Jag Walk before the heat of the midday sun hits. Early morning is also a brilliant time for a bird boat or forest survey when everything is just waking up, and like us, busying themselves before the day gets too hot.

Each day after lunch fresh fruit is dished up while everyone shares stories of their previous day and essential messages are passed between volunteers and staff. This is a great way to hear about all the amazing things people have seen as well as airing any issues, like people not filling the toilet bucket up with water!

Afternoons consist of forest surveys or boat trips across one of many different habitats within the park. These are conducted in a structured way to ensure that all the data is consistent and can confidently be used in the team's scientific research papers.

The evening is generally very relaxed with people playing cards or home-made board games. A hot chocolate is a must in the evenings. But don't think you get away with every evening off, beach patrols for nesting turtles happen every night and this is something not to be missed.

There are also opportunities for forest surveys at night time which brings a whole new element to the jungle. No trail is the same at night time as it is during the day, keep your eyes peeled and look for eye-shine!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

The thing I was most nervous about before I left for this trip was meeting new people. I have done a trip before and been left with a couple of people who were not very sociable and did not seem very enthusiastic about what we were doing.

Before I booked this trip I asked the GVI staff how many volunteers they normally get to reassure myself I would not get lonely. At Jalova they can take around 20 volunteers at a time and they have about 8 staff members, there will always be someone to talk to and someone who has similar interests.

When I arrived straight away I met members of my group at the hostel, everyone is in the same position of not knowing anyone and you are all there because you love wildlife and conservation. I made friendships for life and would have no hesitation in returning or joining another trip.

I know now that the type of person who goes on these trips with GVI cares about the world, so they can’t be that bad, can they?

What is your favorite memory from your time abroad?

In my last week in camp, we conducted 24 straight hours of surveys to raise money for camp to purchase new solar panels. What a way to end my experience!

In the 24 hour period we saw 104 different species of animal. My group was all set to go out onto the river and conduct a canal bird survey. Unfortunately, the Rangers did not arrive to pick us up (their work and emergencies come first, which we applaud them for).

Instead, we wandered around the coconut plantation spotting lots of beautiful bird species, on the way back to camp we all remarked what a nice, yet unexpected survey that was to which one of our leaders Mac stated ‘Its not over until we are back in camp.”

He was right! Not far from camp, a White-Nose Coati bounded across the plantation and right over the path in front of us. Jumping up and down with excitement, huge grins on their faces and in utter shock the staff turned to see if the rest of us had seen it too. Luckily I had, this was a rare sighting in the park and to see it so close was utterly unbelievable.

It was one of my highlights, not just seeing the Coati but seeing the staffs reaction. They live in this amazing place and see such beautiful things all the time, but they still get just as excited as us each time these delightful creatures surprise them.